Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Maria Arancedo of Santa Fe de la Vera Cruz denounced the position of those who think the Church and the Christian life "are opposed to the development or the progress of man. He then pointed to numerous examples in history of "Christian scientists, artists and philosophers that have contributed to the culture and growth of man."
The archbishop said, "Faith is not opposed to nor does it limit reason; on the contrary, it presupposes and needs it. Faith opens the intellect to a dimension that helps it understand the truth about man in all of his grandeur as a human and spiritual being."
After recalling Jesus’ words in the Gospel, "My Father is glorified by this that bear much fruit," Archbishop Arancedo noted that for the Church, this passage is not understood "in merely spiritual terms, but in a wider sense."
"Bearing ‘much fruit’ refers also to the work of man when with his intellect he elevates the human condition, whether through education, health care improvement, the wellbeing of everything that makes man’s life in this world dignified," he said.
Likewise, Archbishop Arancedo said, "These fruits, in order for them to be truly human, should make reference to the world of values. This is not a limit, but rather a guarantee of authentically human growth."
The archbishop warned that "when the apparent ‘fruits’ of man compromise the level of human relations or the care of the environment, Jesus would tell us these acts are not the fruit referred to in the Gospel, nor the glory of the Father."
"Let us learn to understand the richness and commitment of our faith, so that we may be good Christians and committed citizens of this world that needs the light and life of the Gospel," he stated.
Rome, Italy, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Oswald Gomis of Sri Lanka expressed satisfaction over the end of the conflict between the Tamil Tiger rebel group and government forces after 27 years of struggle, and said “the war will end only when we understand that we are one people, on nation with equal rights.”
“We must understand that we are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multicultural community,” the archbishop said, according to the Italian news agency SIR. “We are very happy because the war has ended and because the government security forces have been able to liberate all innocent civilians trapped during the battles.”
In the wake of these events, he continued, “the country is facing the imperative task of building up the nation, setting aside the ethical, political and religious differences and promoting a sense of belonging among minority groups.”
Archbishop Gomis thanked the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse, “for showing courageous leadership, and the heads of the armed forces who “have supported him with a spirit of sacrifice.” He also offered prayers for those who “have lost their lives in the battles and for the civilians murdered during the war.”
San Antonio, Texas, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - While addressing graduates from the University of the Incarnate Word, Most Rev. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of San Antonio, noted how education isn’t just about professional knowledge, but the knowledge that upholds truth. He also discussed the importance of maintaining the truth in a society filled with relativistic ideals and policies.
Explaining that education does not mean enlightenment, the archbishop drew a comparison of today’s society with the attitude of Pontius Pilate when he questioned Jesus Christ.
"Pilate was not uneducated. But he was educated in such a way that he could not recognize the truth—even when the truth was standing right in front of him." He continued, "Our society today is a lot like Pontius Pilate—it doesn’t recognize the truth. …Our culture believes instead that there are many truths—as many different truths as there are individuals, and that it’s wrong to try to decide or judge among these."
He also alluded to the concept of the "dictatorship of relativism," and how as a result the society "not only allows evils such as abortion, it also protects them under law."
"[Believing that truth is relative] sounds like a very fair and reasonable way to live in a free society where there are many different religions, lifestyles, and points of view. But in practice: when nothing is true, everything is permitted."
After this, Archbishop Gomez spoke about the graduates’ role in restoring society’s values:
"My friends, part of what God is calling you to do with your higher education is to restore the sense of truth to our society—especially the truth about the sanctity and dignity of human life." He continued, "You have to help our society see that truths and moral absolutes do exist. That the truth is always true, no matter whether any one believes it or not. That we need to conform our lives—and our laws—to these truths."
Furthermore, he mentioned the world’s need for "great scientists who are also true believers. Who can help us to understand and appreciate the beauty of creation. Who can help us to discover new treatments for illness and disease. But who remain humble enough to know that there are many things we can’t know by reason and the scientific method alone."
He concluded his speech highlighting the importance of each individual in the struggle to serve society, and also the necessity of not basing one’s life in his or her career, but on the path to true enlightenment.
"Our world needs you, and God has things that he wants you to do. I pray that you will always remember that your life is far more than a career track. It is a journey with Jesus to see God."
Vatican City, May 19, 2009 (CNA) -
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski met with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday evening at the Vatican to discuss issues of mutual interest on the international stage, and to invite the Pontiff to visit Poland again.
During his visit to Italy, Kaczynski met with Pope Benedict and Giorgio Napolitano, the president of Italy. The meeting with Napolitano involved discussions over the expansion of the EU and relations with Georgia and Ukraine.
The meeting with the Holy Father centered around "certain bilateral and regional questions," the Vatican said in a statement.
The Polish president thanked the Pope for the attention he has devoted to Poland and, according to Polskie Radio, invited him to visit his country again.
Vatican City, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - A celebration of books called the World Book and Copyright Day was held on April 23, and to mark the event, the Vatican is issuing a stamp and postmark.
The stamp and postmark will be released by the Vatican's Publishing House on May 29, with the stamp having a value of 60 euro cents. The postage stamp shows a sketch by Maria Carmela Perrini depicting the "Codex Vaticanus."
As part of the same initiative, the first edition of a bimonthly magazine entitled "Editoria Vaticana," also published by the Vatican Publishing House, will likewise be presented tomorrow, as will the results of a survey into the books most read by priests, in collaboration with the "Rogate" magazine for priestly vocations.
The date of April 23 was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the birth or death of a range of internationally renowned writers and because of the Catalan traditions surrounding this day.
The celebrations in Catalonia involve sweethearts exchanging books and roses on April 23, Saint George's Feast Day. The international celebration of the day has been held since 1995.
Rome, Italy, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal and the Custodian of the Holy Land, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, both said this week that after his apostolic trip to the Holy Land, “Benedict XVI has left seeds of hope in these places which remind us of the Gospel. Now it is our turn as pastors of small flock to see that they bear the fruits of peace, reconciliation and unity.”
In an interview with the L’Osservatore Romano, the patriarch said that the Holy Father “has above all given us conviction and courage.” “We did not expect miracles, but we do have to pray and give the Lord time to reap what has been sowed,” he said.
The archbishop also underscored that Benedict XVI “has asked Christians to remain here, to resist despite the complexity of the situation, because these holy places are also places of the cross. It is a challenge that is also accepted in dramatic conditions.”
For his part, the Custodian of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said the Pope “has given strength to the Christians of the Holy Land. In addition, in this inter-religious context, he knew how to speak to Muslims and Jews with clarity.”
He went on to explain that “now it is necessary to prepare for peace, which must be based on integrity, on the dignity of the persons, on relationships that made in freedom and based on mutual trust. We need much time, but the signs and gestures that were made during the Pope’s visit point to the goal, and in particular, show that it is possible to obtain it. These are not utopian dreams, but rather something that can become a reality if we truly want it.”
Commenting later about how the Holy Father mentioned the testimony of St. Francis of Assisi on certain occasions, Father Pizzaballa noted that “not only did we like this recognition, it inspires us to continue fulfilling our duty with passion and love. Above all we will continue helping people to remain in these places, supporting them with housing and employment, the two things are essential for our multi-secular presence in the Holy Land.”
Vatican City, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The first social encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, which will probably be called "Veritas in caritate" (Truth in Charity), appears as if it will see the light of day on June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, a source from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace informed CNA.
The encyclical "has finally been completed by the Holy Father and should be published by the end of June," the source told CNA. The same source also said that originally, Pope Benedict planned to publish his first social encyclical in 2007 to mark the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's memorable social encyclical Populorum Progressio, but the document "got delayed for several reasons."
According to the Justice and Peace source, the Pope wanted to publish his second encyclical Spes Salvi because he thought it was more important to release it first. "But then the current global financial crisis required, last year, a thorough revision of many of the Pope's proposals for global justice," the source said.
The last social encyclical, Centesimus annus, was published by Pope John Paul II in May 1991.
Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The president of the Collegial Medical Association in Spain, Juan Jose Rodriguez Sendin, said on Monday that abortion “is not like eating a piece of candy,” but rather is a “traumatic” surgical intervention in which the autonomy of the patient “should be made compatible with the right of parents to be informed.”
Speaking to reporters about the approval of a new law on abortion by the Council of Ministers, Rodriguez Sendin said it was an “error” and “unfortunate” that the legal age for an abortion without parent consent was dropped to 16 and that it would create worse problems for families than those that already exist in such cases.
He stressed that parents should be “given the opportunity to learn about the problems their daughters might have in order to help them and console them,” pointing out that a girl under the age of 16 having an abortion is not like “eating a piece of candy,” it is a “traumatic surgical intervention.”
Rodriguez Sendin also criticized the government for handling the issue at the Ministry of Equality instead of the Ministry of Health, which has better knowledge of the facts, and for not taking into account the opinions of experts in an issue “as controversial” as abortion.
He also called on health care professionals to be “responsible” in obtaining the informed consent that patients who want to get an abortion must sign, and he warned doctors to “be sure that women understand what they are signing and to explain whatever they do not understand.”
Madrid, Spain, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The secretary general of the organization Professionals for Ethics, Fabian Fernandez de Alarcon said this week that recent statements by homosexual activist and Socialist leader Pedro Zerolo are a clear signal of the government’s agenda for the course, Education for the Citizenry.
Marking the World Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Zerolo said the Socialist Party supports "education that promotes sexual diversity" and has called for an end to the boycott against the course.
Fernandez de Alarcon said the statements by Zerolo show that Education for the Citizenry is not intended to teach the Constitution and human rights but rather to contribute to the Zapatero government’s agenda of social transformation.
"For this reason Education for the Citizenry seeks to normalize homosexuality among children and young people beginning in grade school. Let’s not forget this course is being offer to students ages 10-17, and according to the official curriculum, it is intended to delve into the principles of personal ethics and address issues related to human relationships and emotional education, helping students to build a moral and civic conscience in accord with the pluralist, complex and changing societies in which we live," he said.
Fernandez de Alarcon said Zerolo has always been a strong defender of the course and for the "full equality of gays and lesbians. From this perspective, Education for the Citizenry is a giant step forward."
Washington D.C., May 19, 2009 (CNA) - Continuing his criticism of President Barack Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame, Catholic commentator George Weigel charged that Obama has inserted himself into intra-Catholic disputes by trying to define who a “real Catholic” is. He warned the president risks assuming the headship of the dissident wing of U.S. Catholicism, pitting Catholic intellectuals and institutions against their bishops.
Weigel, writing in a Monday essay for National Review Online, said it was “surprising” and “disturbing” that President Obama decided to “insert himself” into “the ongoing Catholic debate over the boundaries of Catholic identity and the applicability of settled Catholic convention in the public square.”
He said President Obama tried to settle “the decades-long intra-Catholic culture war” in favor of one faction: “the faction that had supported his candidacy and that had spent the first months of his administration defending his policies.”
In an exclusive comment to CNA, Weigel compared the effort to the historical phenomenon of “Gallicanism,” the French bishops’ past efforts to establish a church generally independent of papal authority.
“This is a very serious business, with the president of the United States putting himself in charge of the Gallican wing of the Catholic Church in the United States -- the difference being that this new Gallicanism isn't local bishops vs. Rome but intellectuals and their institutions and magazines vs. local bishops and Rome,” Weigel told CNA.
Weigel said that the “politically savvy” White House and its allies among Catholic progressive intellectuals may have intended to secure Obama’s political advantage among Catholic voters with his appearance at Notre Dame.
To secure his political position, Weigel charged, “the president of the United States decided that he would define what it means to be a real Catholic in 21st-century America — not the bishop of Fort Wayne–South Bend, who in sorrow declined to attend Notre Dame’s commencement.”
The Catholic commentator also argued that the president indirectly presented himself as a more significant authority than the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who had “explicitly and unambiguously” instructed Catholic institutions not to honor pro-abortion rights politicians.
President Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame, Weigel argued in National Review Online, tried to suggest “who the real Catholics in America are” and put forward the late Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Joseph Bernardin as the model for being “congenial and gentle” and for “always trying to bring people together.”
While praising Cardinal Bernardin’s “gallant response” to a fatal cancer diagnosis, Weigel said Cardinal Bernardin’s “seamless garment” approach to public policy ended up helping Catholic politicians and laymen dodge moral objections to their support for a permissive abortion regime.
According to Weigel, the U.S. bishops abandoned the “seamless garment” metaphor in 1998 to better emphasize the foundational nature of the life issues.
He also suggested that President Obama’s praise for Cardinal Bernardin was an implicit criticism of contemporary bishops who are vocally pro-life, like present Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Francis George.
Cardinal George, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was described by Weigel as “one of the most articulate critics of Notre Dame’s decision to honor a president who manifestly does not share what Notre Dame claims is its institutional commitment to the Church’s defense of life.”
In his email to CNA, Weigel repeated the question he previously asked in his Catholic press column: “What Church does Notre Dame belong to?”
Rome, Italy, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia reacted this week to charges leveled by the president of the Italian Parliament, who argued that the Church is trying to create religious laws by defending the right to life.
“The issues the Catholic world strives to contribute to are issues not defined as religious precepts; they are issues that have to do with the fundamental rights of man, such as the right to and respect for life, the rights that have to do with the unity of marriage and the family,” Bishop Sgreccia responded.
The bishop’s comments were made in response to the president of the Italian parliament, Gianfranco Casini, who said, “Parliament must make laws that are not guided by religious precepts.” Bishop Sgreccia said these issues “are not religious precepts, but rather are written in human nature, they are defended by reason and are inscribed in the Constitution as well.”
He went on to recall that Catholics “never seek that laws be made that are solely based on religious precepts, such as going to Mass, for example. These issues that are being discussed all qualify as fundamental rights of the person.”
However, the bishops said, “the fact that it is Catholics who defend them (inviolable rights such as the right to life) does not mean they have less human value or that the Catholic defense of them has less rationale. The faith reassures us in our rational arguments but it never substitutes human reason.”
Bishop Sgreccia urged Casini to exercise “calm and reflection” and said the tensions felt on the political stage regarding these fundamental issues “sometimes obscures the national clarity and are due to political passion, excessive partisan polemics, and the Church does not want to provide any more reason for their to be further rupture. But this unrest should in no way lead to underestimating the gravity of the questions of bioethics.”
Lastly the bishop remarked, “There shouldn’t be any fences built around Catholics because we have all of the cards in order to defend the family against euthanasia or against the gravity of abortion.”
Mexico City, Mexico, May 19, 2009 (CNA) - In an editorial on ethics in politics, the Archdiocese of Mexico encouraged Mexicans to become more involved in political life in order to rid it of corruption.
The article published by the archdiocese’s news service notes that there has been an avalanche of reports in recent days about “the recent past of some Mexican politicians—from presidents to government leaders, to collaborators and family members—implicated in acts of political and economic corruption.”
The article noted that nothing new has come out of the reports, but that what should be of concern to Mexicans is “our present and our future.”
“Where is the new political class that is part of new democratic times? Where is the participation by voters to reject at the polls once and for all those who have caused so much harm to this society with their corruption and fraud? How long will the Mexicans society continue to tolerate the hypocrisy and demagoguery of those who are exposed over and over again for their schemes and betrayals?” the archdiocese questioned.
Amidst the same stories of corruption that are at once old and new ... “Where are our ethics?” the editorial asked.
“A nation with principles and values and ideals cannot continue building its future upon the same shifting sands. We need greater requirements and commitments, and not just lamentations for the dark past. In these democratic times, we need citizens who are more committed, truthful and involved.
Washington D.C., May 19, 2009 (CNA) - The President of Trinity University, Patricia McGuire, who at the school's Sunday commencement described pro-life critics of Notre Dame's decision to honor President Obama as "Catholic vigilantes” and "grand inquisitors," pointed to the pro-abortion politicians Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius as good examples of the education provided by the Catholic university.
During her remarks at the Senior Luncheon on May 15, McGuire told the graduates of the Catholic university that "you will have a stunning opportunity to take a public leadership position that will also test your courage and conviction in ways you cannot imagine right now."
"When she sat in this very dining hall 47 years ago, I’m quite sure that Nancy D’Alesandro didn’t imagine that she’d be Speaker Pelosi, one of the most important political figures at this moment in our national history. When she sat here 39 years ago, I’m sure that Kathleen Gilligan never imagined that one day she’d be called Secretary Sebelius at Health and Human Services," McGuire surmised.
According to the Trinity University president, "what motivated each of these Trinity leaders was a passion to make a difference in the public square. I’m sure that each, on a daily basis, has had to deal with issues they never learned about here at Trinity --reform of the health care system, the need to bailout the banks, the challenge of restarting the economy, the perilous condition of social security, the use of torture as a covert national policy, the future of the Supreme Court, the acute and sustained pressures from both right and left to develop law and policy over the central issues of the beginning and ending of life itself."
"How do Nancy and Kathleen and our other graduates know how to work through these hugely complicated issues?" McGuire asked.
"The whole point of a Trinity education is NOT that you leave here on graduation day with all of the answers. Of course not. The whole purpose of this great educational enterprise is that you will know how to analyze the questions, recognize the questions that you must ask without apology; that you will know how to distinguish the truth from mere puffery or outright deceit; that you will have the courage to be the voice that shouts out when all others are silent."
"You will not always be right; you will make mistakes. But mistakes are the risk of a life of action; you are called to the life of action, of advocacy, of assertive leadership on behalf of your families, communities and nation," McGuire said.
New Haven, Conn., May 19, 2009 (CNA) - Both American Catholics and their non-Catholic countrymen have an “overwhelmingly” favorable view of Pope Benedict XVI, a new poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus says.
About 78 percent of practicing Catholics had a favorable or very favorable view of Pope Benedict. Non-practicing Catholics were only slightly less likely to profess a favorable view.
Among all Americans, about 59 percent had a favorable or very favorable view of the pontiff.
The poll was conducted in late March by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion and the Knights of Columbus. It surveyed 2,078 Americans including 521 American Catholics. It claims a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent concerning responses from all Americans and a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent for Catholic respondents.
According to the survey results, about 65 percent of Americans in general and 85 percent of Catholic Americans said they had a favorable view of the Catholic Church. Of practicing Catholics, 92 percent had a favorable view of the Church while only 73 percent of non-practicing Catholics did.
The poll reported that about half of Americans said they would like to hear Pope Benedict XVI on issues like abortion and stem cell research, while 57 percent wanted to hear his views on marriage and the family.
Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl A. Anderson, commenting in an column for Zenit news agency, said the positive responses were “a great testament to the Pope’s ability to communicate the Gospel directly to people.”
“It is an unswerving commitment to the truth -- and the ability through his own prayerfulness to introduce people to Jesus Christ -- that has made Benedict XVI a beacon of moral courage whose message the American people and people worldwide respect and wish to hear. We might call it a triumph of truth over television,” he wrote.